A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Afro Celts and the Dhol Drummers

Making my way back to the north lands, a beautiful day and stunning countryside flashing by.Travelling solo as Alison is heading south to spend some time with her Dad. I still have the residue of last night’s stunning visual and sound experience which will keep me going through the mundane routines making even them special. Our accommodation was based on price, 50% reasonable reviews and proximity to the centre, but having a little experience of Front of House can be a curse at times. Like in Iceland you cannot help but gauge how you are treated /helped through your day. Had a wee cringe when I heard the French chappie ask for some tabasco for his scrambled eggs, the waitress had never heard of tabasco despite this foreign person spelling it out for her, going for help maybe was on the cards but he never got his tabasco. Place was clean, maybe not Grace/Irena clean but clean enough and served its purpose, but maybe another venue for Celtic Connections. Booked most of the tickets for a five-day venture in January. Had a scare when one of the key concerts, Mandolin Orange was booked out, at least that is what CC said. I went onto their own website and was fortunate to get a couple of tickets so with Lunasa, Bothy Culture, Lau and a couple of others to be confirmed the winter will be less bleak.

Sights that I never see in Applecross bring home to you how fortunate one is in life. Last night I had the “great” misfortune to run out of battery in my camera, having left my backup at the accommodation and not having a second battery to hand. I called in to Jessops on the way to the station this morning and could not help comparing my good fortune in going to buy a back up battery, paying £90 for the privilege, while thinking about the guy who was making his bed up in the same doorway when we passed the night before.Maybe it helps to think it is a beautiful country and day when you have a home, family and structure to ones life. Passing through the lush farmlands of Perthshire, the bleak, snow-covered moors of Dalwhinnie and the the birch woods around Aviemore one can only hope the homeless chap has a couple of good experiences that will see him through his day. If a ticket machine not accepting my card and a camera battery running out is a problem in my life, I think I will settle for that.

The concert from beginning to end was stunning,

colourful

and a rocking good sound. Dhol Drummers, Kora,

 

Bagpipes,

Bodhran,Flute and singing were all top drawer.

All familiar as I have seen the Dhol boys with Shooglenifty and have followed the Afro Celts for some time. The cross over of the Celts with the Asian and African sounds seem very natural and the evening was topped off with Griogair singing a fine Jacobean Gaelic song, aimed I think to get people’s feet back on the ground so they could wend their way home. Met up with other guys from Applecross, Sheildaig, Plockton and South Uist with other musicians spotted, a feeling of Scotland being just the right size of country where huge amounts of talent and camaraderie abound. Been asked to write an article and blog post for another site so going to have to put deadline on myself to get both done. May be away for a couple of days……but then something else may happen.

But get home means a trip over our little hill.

Applecross Meanderings

On the way south to see and hear Afro Celt Sound System and leaving Inverness behind finally. The ticket collecting machine did not like my Visa card. May be a west east issue. As a result by the time I had picked them up from the ticket office the planned train had left. So now after an M and S coffee, couple of music purchases, Lau and Julie Fowlis, it is south we go. Another difference between east and west is Christmas seems to have arrived on the east coast, horribly early. These little jaunts are essential to life in Applecross where believe it or not one does suffer from cabin fever. However a meander around the community,

with

and without the dogs allow for some good viewing of colours

and bird life.

Keeping the dogs off the beaches at the time of year is good for the seabirds, enabling them not to fly off trying to avoid mad spaniels and terriers. One or two little hiccups at the Hydro, a couple of tripped switches but no significant lose of power out put. Angus is always about.

It still uses up a bit of volunteer time, getting the key for access, checking over the switches and returning the key and you are three-quarters of an hour down, that as well as a screen clean and before you know it well over a couple of hours are taken up. But to counter balance there is always the views.

Events of the week have involved our Community Council no longer having enough elected councillors to continue, still have to check up to make doubly sure but an election is in the offing. Another meeting this week to progress the Community Company consultation, something that should not surprise anyone as the Community Company is obliged to find out what the Community want and for it to carry out its wishes if it is feasible. There may be consulting fatigue in the Community but this one is quite important as it is a Community led one. Yet more volunteer time but gradually cutting back on the overload.

Sheep that Couldn’t Pee

After the fine morning we are back to the autumnal/winter south-westerly breeze and mainly grey skies. Although it is a little frustrating that there are no langoustines on the menu board I am less fretful than in younger days. Looking back on the week, despite the inactivity at sea and a seasonal feeling taking hold, there were a couple of highlights. One involved working at the Inn and meeting the C of I vicar, Terry and his wife Alison. Wednesday evening went as planned with it being a lot less frantic, still having to watch tables for residents, but being able to chat to people for a little longer. I had already made contact earlier in the evening so sat down in their vicinity for my supper. The House 9 Cowans were in and the evening really kicked off from then on in. A proper Highland Pub craic and ceilidh ensued over a couple of malts, well possibly three. Although unlike at the Awards Ceremony no one was counting. Everything was up for discussion, politics, banter, world events, certainly Ireland was up there with Brexit and local community activities ranked fairly high. I like the fact that card-carrying Tories, an Irish vicar and a Scottish Green can pass the time of day discussing the events of the day and remain/become friends over the piece. It was only left for me to state that it is evenings like these that make working at the Inn so enjoyable. Working is probably the wrong word.

So often when you chat to people the connection is there, like the friends of one of the late Prof Romanes’ daughters. She was so surprised I had heard of him, far less knew and worked with him when we were scallop farming. And so to the vet, Alasdair, who used to live in Fintry and now in Doune. Only realised that I had spoken to them the last time they were here. Loved his story of the ewe that could n’t pee. She had turned up at the practice and belonged to a “hobby farmer” who fed it to the extent it did not eat grass, even when put in a field of fellow grass-eating sheep. Resulting in a crystallising blocking it channels. Despite having a “bit” chopped off it did not survive through the next 24 hours although she was able to pee, which must have been some relief as she left this world.

Going further back into the week, on Tuesday, I headed over the Hill making my way to Sleat for a bit of a wild card concert put on by Duncan of Seall. The Red Dirt Skinners and what a find the were.

On the way I stopped off for a shop and to drop off my sick iMac at a doctor. Not very hopeful of getting it going and getting data recovered but still worth a try. Then down to Dave and Maggie’s for a wee ceilidh. Always great for a catch up and usually afterwards I wonder why we do not do this more often, just drop in to people’s houses  for nothing more than making or at least keeping a strong connection going. The upsetting side to the visit was finding out I had missed the passing on of Sylvia. the Iceland trip had put me out of communication and missed both her passing and send off which to all accounts was immense. Hearing that both Slippy and her daughter did her proud on the day. The least I could do was to call in to Ruairidh and try to convey some heartfelt feeling, always feels so inadequate and hopefully he picked up some genuine sympathy and for a few minutes felt a kindred spirit. When we lose empathy with our fellow-men then we are in trouble. I suspect a lack of human empathy in our Political Leaders leads to many a war, and although often said it is very rarely their sons and daughters who are sent to fight their wars.

So easy for me, as I was back on the road to Sleat via a monster fish and chips in Broadford. The Skinners were awesome, soprano sax

with guitar and vocals were immense.

Mostly their own self penned songs, all accompanied with stories, with a couple of covers thrown in. Sunshine in Leith stood out and came a close second to the version sung by the 20000 Hibs fans after they had won the Scottish Cup. Don’t think anyone can compete with that version. Sat at a table of Lochcarron and Kishorn guys but you are never on your own when at a music gig. This concert ranks as one of the best and the drive home felt short.

So back to Monday and a trip up to the screen to check up and clean. In spate

so it was a shoes and socks off rather than wet feet.

Pooches as usual in attendance.

Three Days

The catch up continues with a pretty daft three days at the end of last week. Thursday went as normal, catching a few langoustines and lots of squat lobsters, then off to work at the Inn. All going well despite the slowing down of the fishing. The edge has been taken off the numbers coming through the door and with three people still on the floor things are so much easier. One or two late arrivals keep cooking going until the nine o’clock deadline  and then the craziness kicked in. Jump into the van and head south for an overnight to Edinburgh for a meeting to review the Marine Plan, three years after its installation. Made it as far as Ralia before disappearing into the back of the van and crashing out on the mattress put there just for the occasion. Arriving in Edinburgh in plenty of time, I had an appointment with an Apple IT chap to see if anything could be done for my iMac. Grim prognosis, but not without a little hope and a sideline I managed to gain a little knowledge in uploading photos to the blog on the MacBook. So not a total waste of time. I do not think I am a soft touch but seeing the homeless on the streets outside the Apple dept and Waverley Station with me passing them carrying a couple of grands worth of IT equipment seemed a touch too incongruous for my comfort. Dropping a pound into a cup did not make me feel any easier.

But time tramps on, getting a little lost and taking a bit longer to park at the Ocean Terminal meant I was slightly late….only to miss out on the coffee.

There was a couple of no shows and my name was missed out so I slotted in to a table with Sally and four others. It was actually far more interesting and productive than I thought and once we got going I had plenty to say. Unfortunately The Marine Plan is a touch too woolly and can be used to justify almost any activity at sea. It included offshore, oil and gas, renewables, as well as inshore fishing and salmon farming. Sally and I had our say about small-scale industries, coastal communities under pressure, population pressures, affordable housing….in fact we had plenty to say. A slightly worrying aspect to the day was the acceptance that one user may always be to the detriment of another. Agreeing that there will be problems in a physical sense it is a pity that this is the case. Surely  species specific fishing should be encouraged as opposed to the all in approach of the mobile sector. I always work on the theory that if you stay silent, or don’t vote then your voice at the Inn when you complain about life’s injustices does not mean so much. Again look at the Catalonians, they spoke and demonstrated peacefully. So that completed it was back in the van, but not before chatting to a couple of co-conspiritors who are trying to help regain some of the degraded marine environment and get some of the ocean life back to a more healthy state. The Marine Plan is aspirational but it will only stay that way until politicians take some brave and in some quarters, unpopular decisions that will improve the health of the inshore waters.

Mallaig and Feis na Mara was the next destination.

Made it over the New Crossing, lots of traffic on the way north.

Did not make the junction turn off on the M90 as it was closed so turned to the west at Dunkeld, going through the Sma Glen, Crieff and Crainlarich. A couple of snooze stops were needed so missed out on Anna and Mairead but enjoyed Mischa and Co followed by Dosca, a Glasgow fast playing trad band who are about to record their first album.

They were full on and the young crowd loved them. Great top see such a lot of young teens out and about. Lots of effort on a spangly look, some of the older ones joining in with lights in their hair and pink wigs. A very huggy crowd, may be due to people not seeing one another for a while with some from the islands and more remote peninsulas meeting up after some time. Then it was the turn of the main man, Griogair,

who arrived on stage with a variety of pipes,

bodran,

beat box and rap, Gaelic at that. This was all backed up with a pretty heavy-duty base beat from the DJ at the back. Wall of sound in Mallaig probably went on for a good while after I had left for the road at 1.00am. I was intending to stay the night but the call of home was too strong. Needed five snooze stops to get back by around six in the morning. Luckily the next gig was late due to the speed limits on the A9.

Next up was filming an advert for Volt ebikes. I have had a Volt Alpine for over 7500 kms and the Co of two brothers are doing a dozen stories of people using the bikes. It seemed to go well with me starting at the Varuna and a drone, coming ashore,

waiting for rain to pass, landing the langoustines, and taking them up the road to the Inn. very few retakes and finally serving the starter portion of langoustines to the boys.

All good positive fun and after riding the new version of the Alpine am certainly going to upgrade in the future. Then it was a simple task to slip back into one of the day jobs and start a shift at the Inn.

Landward in Applecross and Duncan in Sleat.

Tale of two days show a variety of life in rural Scotland. Friday morning saw us up at the Inn to meet up with the team over from Landward who were doing an article on the impact of the NC500 on the infrastructure around Applecross, in particular the Bealach.

Once camera was all loaded up

we headed up in the car chatting about the strain on the road caused by the huge increase of traffic. Laura, the director was in the accustomed place out of camera view but directing operations all the same.

Interesting seeing Anne’s reaction when she started watching the road edges. Actually, sitting in the passenger seat and going up the road it was shocking to see the rapid deterioration that is taking place. Personally there are going to be serious decisions that will have to be made very soon by Highland Council. On one hand the trumpet cannot be continually blown about how wonderful tourism is to the Highlands without a penny being spent on the infrastructure as it collapses around our ears. Not only is the Bealach breaking up but issues locally keep cropping up such as camper van chemical toilet disposal. Our LDO is in touch with both SEPA and Scottish Water about setting up such a unit as our Community run toilets are creaking under the strain of constant use and disposal. We have just had a groups of local ladies carrying out a voluntary deep clean of the toilets last month and despite the regular breaking of our donation box the toilets remain well run. New donation box is in the process of being installed which hopefully will end this sad problem. Fortunately for the Highland Council these issues are being solved at a local level by the Community Trading Company but roads are a different issue. The theme about the NC500 is that it has been welcomed in a lot of areas, particularly further north but here we have a feeling of being a little swamped by the numbers coming through. It is a good problem to have to deal with, but Highland Council have to step up or the Bealach is going to become a dangerous embarrassment and people in the rural parts of the Highlands who are already questioning exactly what the Highland Council does for anyone outside Inverness will have another example to point to. Fascinating to see the interaction between camera, direction and presentation. All in all it was an easy-going but professional morning with me trying to ignore the calm weather and the creel boats fishing just off the shore in the Bay. We finished up with some filming and more chat/interviews outside the Inn

before I went south and they stopped of for some fine lunch at the Inn. The program for anyone interested is going out on the 22nd of September, the first of the new series. It was not a bash the NC500 morning but a look at how an advertising campaign with little local(Applecross) consultation can have such an impact on our infrastructure.

I knew I was not going to go out on the water later as Duncan Chisholm and Co were playing in Sleat in the evening. We headed over the Hill at the back of five as Alison was meeting another deadline for an application for the Community Company. Made it with plenty of time and the music was simply sublime. I have a really strong connection with this man’s music. His tunes are phenomenal and you wander through the glens with him as his fiddle playing makes you forget all the things you should have done. His tunes feel ancient, as if they have been around for centuries, and I reckon they will be played for years to come. Hard to believe this all in the same day. Prior to Duncan

coming on stage we were entertained by Mischa Macpherson, Innes White and Ingrid Henderson, gaelic song and fiddle at their best. Duncan was ably supported by the wonderful playing of Jarlath on whistles and uillean pipes

and Ali on guitar.

Saturday was earmarked for fishing as I was on film duty the day before. I was slightly nervous of the weather as the forecast was giving a strongish breeze from the north and I was not looking forward to a heavy day’s work especially as I was in the Inn for the evening. As it turned out the morning was stunning with the sun shining around a few fluffy clouds

and the water still and serene.

Although the first fleet was not too impressive the next five were very pleasant to haul. Lovely creels coming up with lots of big langoustines,

one so big it could have made it as a lobster.

As I was hauling the last fleet I noticed a wee change in the temperature and looked to the north where there was a solid rain cloud coming down the Sound with accompanying white caps. By the time I got to the end of the fleet I was hanging onto the gunnel, tripping across the deck and tying lose equipment down. The decision was made for me on how many creels to haul for the day. Nice to know that the steam home was with the motion on my stern quarter

and all that was to be done then was to weigh and land the langoustines for the Inn and then start work all over again. Before it got a bit lumpy a few stone crabs are appearing as you put some of the creels on some rougher ground as the open mud fats are getting a little tired from the summer’s fishing effort.

I have no idea what these are but still they reproduce, maybe a mistake in this case as the eggs have little chance of survival.

As this was written over a couple of days and it is now Sunday evening after a twelve-hour shift, interspaced with a twenty-minute snooze to revive myself for the evening shift. Twelves, sixteens, sixes and eights were all seated amongst the residents and random walk ins. Regulars are appearing in numbers. People you get to know a little each time they come up. A crabbies and bike ride home after a music night from the Vans, a fine Australian couple, who are playing cracking self penned and cover version songs for the last three hours.

A Lismore Ceilidh

This is a wonderful way to visit an island, you immediately feel that you are not a tourist and are being allowed to interact with island life, chatting to residents and finding out what they do and how they do it. As well as that, our own connections are coming up again and again and we are finding we know the same people but under different circumstances. After a strong meditation, a cycle down to the south end of the island,

passing the small but well-kept village hall,

a visit to the Heritage Center, not quite long enough, and then on to Mairi’s sister and brother-in-law who are building a fantastic new house with ongoing legal access problems hopefully coming to a conclusion. Confirms my bus theory that a few decades ago a bus toured through the Highlands and Islands and dropped off awkward customers in every community. Awkward is a pejorative term as other words spring to mind. Sarah and Yorick are coming to the end of a long and protracted access dispute with a neighbour. A strainer placed in front of an access point with no other purpose than to prevent access.

They had managed to buy a croft of an elderly couple and proceeded to self build a fantastic looking house themselves while working the croft, Sarah building up a textile business

while Yorick puts the house together. Amazing workmanship and dedication while having to go to court with the neighbour. As it is still going on I better not say too much other than wonder why people go down that road which seems to be based in such awkward bad neighbourliness.

Another fine evening’s worth of Applecross seafood was produced and an evening of music was in the air. Being part of the community was apparent from early on when Eric dropped in and added to the “Big Archie” story. He certainly seems to be a colourful character. Calling in to the Heritage Centre where we met Murray, who turned up for the music session later, and then on down to Mairi’s relatives. It all appears that we are making contact with the community rather than a fleeting sightseeing visit. Maybe I am too aware of the numbers that come through Applecross and just stop at the Inn before hurriedly going on their way. Having Mairi chat away about who everyone was gives a more substantive view of the island. The visitors here do not seem to be out of keeping with the numbers living in the community and I only met two groups of tourists on bikes when I travelled down to the south end. Distinct similarities to Applecross emerge all the time. The land is very similar although there is none of the regimented plantations, there are lovely native tree groves that are abundant with bird life. There are far more cattle and sheep on the ground, although sheep do seem to dominate the landscape. The population does seem to be slightly younger but some do need help in the sheep gathering and keeps the younger members of the community very active. The west theme of having several jobs is manifest here on the island.

After our meal of Applecross seafood, which it was nice to share with a couple of the arriving musicians we went through to be entertained by several locals who turned up as preparation for the Tap Root Festival in a couple of weeks time. Accordion,

fiddle,

whistles, piano, a couple of songs and a bit of craic. Could not help thinking of ancient times, of many ceilidhs, of tales told, songs sung and tunes played. No one taking the lead but a natural flow and rhythm to the evening. It was only till later I discovered that Big Archie dropped in for a wee dram. He caught up with Mairi in the kitchen before taking his leave. So much packed into just one day.

Immense Day Off.

You would think that having a day off would be a recuperation but not if you travel for two hours, go on a walk with the dogs for four hours, then take in a bit of music before the two-hour drive home. Having said that it was an immense day, the aim was to hear a bit of music at Sabhal Mor Ostaig provided by a range of very fine musicians.

Decided that fishing did not fit into the day so set off with Dougal and Eilidh and after calling in at the Kyle Coop, hearing a wee story of NC500 road rage, checking the venue and off down to the Aird of Sleat. Although the sign says leads on dogs, knowing that Dougal and Eilidh are not sheep chasers but more interested in grubbing about looking for rodents they had free rein on the track to the edge of Skye. This part of Skye is by no means full and I met around twenty people in the four-hour walk, after a family left had a wonderful remote beach all to myself,

and the dogs of course.

On the way met a couple from Cape Cod and the inevitable Trump conversation ensued. Laughed when one of the ladies said she emailed Trump all her contact details in response to his latest demand. This was to collect all the details of people who had gone onto an anti Trump website. She and her mate were proud marchers, trying to stand up peacefully to a rather bizarre part of American history. Established a routine on the beach where I threw the stick into the water, Dougal goes out swimming for it and Eilidh waits on the water’s edge

to try to wrestle it off him.

The decision to stop was mine, would still be there if not. Caught sight of the lighthouse further along the shoreline,

below which was a gathering of cormorants, looking satisfied after a day’s fishing,

so we ended up there before making our way back in plenty of time for the musical evening, and a fine evening it was too. The walk back was beautiful,

and was very fortunate with the weather, it rained both before and after the outdoor part of the day.

Dogal quickly became very muddy on the way back and the dip in the Minch was a distant memory by the time we were back at the van.

The music and banter were top quality with Applecross getting a wee mention in the story about Gary of Avernish and why the tune was composed and named. Seemingly all about a party that Adam invited Gary to that did not take place due to Adam being 180 miles away and forgetting completely about the invite. So the tune was a way of apologising to Gary. The invite took place in Applecross by the way. Lots of stories about Teviots or Cheviots and songs from Anna and Hamish. Wonderful music all evening played to a packed Hall by Adam,

Anna, the always smiling Mairead

and Hamish, finished off with a rousing set of Sound of Sleat and Road to Errogie. Managed a couple of discrete shots, have to say I am quite conscious about spoiling other people’s appreciation of the evening by taking photos so try to keep that to a minimum. An explanation why there are none of Hamish or Anna.

So back home around half past midnight tired but replete.

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